If ever there was a person unsuited to be God’s messenger, that person would be Jonah.
When God first announces his mission, why Jonah tries to run away. This in itself is ludicrous, for who can escape God?
Of course, God’s way of dealing with Jonah’s refusal is most unusual, causing untold havoc to poor sailors whose ship he used as a means of travel.
Every child knows the story of how Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a “whale” and spit forth upon the shore near Nineveh.
Thereafter, Jonah goes into the city and proclaims it’s destruction because of its sinfulness.
And, as everyone would hope (save Jonah) the people repent and God hears their repentance and is satisfied and spares the city.
This of course ticks off Jonah to no end, who sees God as some softie, all too willing to accept “repentance” and reject his plans to destroy the city.
Jonah quite plainly doesn’t like the way God operates.
I can imagine that God finds Jonah amusing, chuckling at Jonah’s theatrics, “Just kill me now!” he cries.
In thinking about it, I realized, that given Jonah’s lackluster committment to God’s desires, one can but imagine how he “announced” to Nineveh’s inhabitants, their imminent doom.
Imagine if you will, Jonah, walking slowly down the street, “only forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown,” he murmurs to various passersby. I imagine he says this in a rather sarcastic, matter-of-fact tone, with a tired voice, uncaring, and unsympathetic. All he can think of is that he has miles to go before he is done. And of course he wants to be well out of the city before the show begins. He needs time to scope out a good hill to watch the fire and brimstone show.
And yet, people respond immediately to his words. They ACT, from the lowliest to the King, all take on sackcloth and ashes as is appropriate to show great mourning and repentance.
All of which ticks off Jonah all the more, since his wimpy God now forgives them, and spoils his show. All that popcorn, and nothing to watch!
It may seem a bit odd that Jonah’s story is placed in counterpoint to that of Jesus travelling along the Sea of Galilee, and calling to Simon and Andrew and the sons of Zebedee.
Jonah is the antithesis of Jesus in every way.
Jesus will prove to be the herald of God’s loving forgiveness and the king of forgiveness himself.
Yet, they are alike in one way:
The power of God speaking through them is heard and responded to immediately by those who hear.
Who has not gasped when reading this story, literally every time one reads it. Four men, all working men, all in a sense businessmen running their own enterprises, drop everything and follow this man who calls them forth.
They do not stop to discuss the wisdom of leaving their tools (their operating machinery), nor do they wonder how they will feed themselves and their families. They do not seek advice, ask any questions, or look upward for divine guidance.
They “abandon” their belongings, their families, all those who depend upon them, all because something in that voice commands them to in a way that leaves no doubt as to its origins.
Please give me that chance God, to drop everything and follow you without question, we cry.
- Leaving Behind the Nets: The Readings for the 3d Sunday of Ordinary Time (thesacredpage.com)
- 1/22/2012 Respond to God’s Call (richbrownforewords.wordpress.com)
- The Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B: January 22, 2012 (prayerbookguide.wordpress.com)
- God calls and meets us where we are (junjunfaithbook.com)